Tuesday, April 20, 2010

First Step

Yesterday, I watched the Boston marathon for the first time. I had seen a marathon before, when my first step mom ran New York when I was in high school. I've never been fast, and sometimes running feels like the worst chore in the world, but I ran consistently starting at about 9th grade--until I got to MIT. Suddenly schoolwork came in piles that took hours and hours rather than assignments I could do in my sleep. And the excuses kept coming. I was on the varsity tennis team freshman year, which had tougher practices and much farther travel for weekend matches, so there was no time for extra runs on top of that (especially when it got dark so early). I got shin splints during spring season, after a winter off, which took months to recover from because I was inconsistent with my exercises. Then my running shoes were too old and my knees hurt, but I didn't have the time/money/inclination to get new ones. And the schoolwork kept coming, not to mention the northeastern winters that, while nothing new, made sweating outside for even a half-hour extremely unappealing.

My intentions were good, though, and during summers and other breaks I would be almost diligent again like in high school. But something would always come up--the start of a new term, or, like this past February, eye surgery that could not wait and required me to rest for about a month. Not that I would have kept up my running anyway. Classwork during the week, socializing during my free time, catching up on sleep, short daylight hours and freezing temperatures through the end of March don't exactly leave me with a burning desire to lace up my shoes.

Enter the Boston marathon, what I hope will be the kick I need to keep this up for good. It was exhilarating seeing the elites zoom by, as well as the "regular" people who came in packs much later (and from some of whom I got sweaty high-fives!). My friends and I were on Commonwealth, at about mile 25. I could see what toll the miles had taken on the runners. Some smiled and pumped their fists and generally riled up the crowd; some pressed ahead with a calm, determined look on their faces; some grimaced in pain, barely lifting their feet. But they had all come so far. Even making it to Boston means that they've already run a marathon already. And they were 95% of the way through this one, the big one, with all of the biggest hills behind them.

I want to know what that's like. For a while now, I've had vague intentions of running a marathon, but never any concrete plans for doing one. Today, though, I have taken my first step: a 3-mile run. Three miles is my baseline for what I know I can do after I've been on hiatus for a while. Of course, I'm sure this one took me over 30 minutes, and it was tough. But weather is on my side, and maybe even classwork: it is my senior spring, after all. Even if it's not, I'm ready to stop the excuses. Luckily, the more I run the easier it gets. Right now, I need to focus on getting my body used to running again so I can avoid something like my shin splints. Which means some serious consistency. I hope that by the end of this year I will have run a half-marathon. Perhaps a marathon will come in another year. And maybe one day I'll return to Boston, this time on the other side of the barriers.

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